India law

Decision to  have  a surrogate child  is the rational discretion of woman concerned “: SC

By Our  Legal  Correspondent

New  Delhi, Oct 27  (IVC)   A  division Bench  of the Supreme  Court  consisting of Justices  B V  Nagarathna and  Ujjal Bhuyan    held  in  a recent  order  that “The decision  to have a surrogate  child was  entirely  based  on the woman’s inability  to  become a  mother owing  to her  medical or  congenital condition.   Such  a condition  included the “absence  of  a uterus or repeatedly failed pregnancies,  multiple pregnancies or  an  illness which  makes it  impossible for  her to  carry a  pregnancy to  term  or would  make the  pregnancy life-threatening”.           The  apex  court   has  protected  the right  of  parenthood of  a  woman ,  suffering  from  a rare  medical  condition ,  by staying  the  operation  of  a  law  which threatened  to  wreck  her  hopes to  become  a  mother  through  surrogacy.

                The woman has the Mayer  Rokitansky  Kuster  Hauser (MRKH) syndrome.   Medical  Board  records  showed   she  has “absent   ovaries and  absent  uterus,  hence   she cannot  produce her  own eggs/oocytes”.The  couple  had  begun  the  process  of  gestational surrogacy on  December 07, 2022.

                However ,  a government  notification On  March  14  this year amended  the  law,  banning the  use  of  donor gametes.  It  said “intending couples” must  use  their own gametes for  surrogacy.  The  petition  was filed  in the Supreme  Court  challenging  the  amendment as  a  woman’s  right  to parenthood.

                “The  amendment which  is now coming  in  the  way  of  the  intending couple and  preventing them  from  achieving parenthood  through  surrogacy, we  find,  is  prima  facie contrary  to  what is  intended  under  the  main provisions  of  the Surrogacy  Act  both  in  form as  well as  in substance” the justices said.

                Senior  Advocate  Sanjay  Jain ,  the  petitioner’s  lawyer ,  argued that  the  amended Paragraph 1(d) of  the  Surrogacy (Regulation) Rules 2022,  by  ruling  out  the  use  of  user  eggs,  had made  it  impossible for  his  client  and  her  husband  to  continue with the  process  of  surrogacy to  achieve  parenthood.

                He  argued that  the  2023  amendment contradicted Sections 2®  and 4  of  the  Surrogacy Act, 2021,  which recognized  the situation  when  a  medical condition  would  require  a  couple to  opt  for  gestational  surrogacy in  order  to  become  parents.

                Mr  Jain referred  to  Rule 14(a)  of  the Surrogacy   Rules  which  listed  the  medical or congenital conditions owing  to  which a  woman could  choose to  become a  mother through gestational  surrogacy.  They  included “ having  no  uterus or  missing  uterus or  abnormal  uterus(like hypo plastic uterus or  intrauterine adhesions  or  thin endometrium or  small unicorn ate uterus , T-shaped  uterus)  or if   the  uterus is  surgically   removed  due  to any  medical condition  such  as  gynecological cancer”.  

                The lawyer  said  the  Rule  made it  clear that  the choice was  solely that  of  the woman.  He  said  his  client had begun the  surrogacy process  months before  the  amendment,  which  cannot be  implemented retrospectively.

                The  government,  through Additional Solicitor-General, Aishwarya  Bhati , countered  that  the   process  of surrogacy cannot   be  availed  under  the  law  unless the  child  was genetically related” to  the  intending  couple   This   exempted the  use  of donor  eggs.  In  an  11-page order, the  court  agreed  with Mr  Jain’s argument  that  the law permitting gestational surrogacy was “woman centric”.

                The amendment cannot  be   contradicted Rule 14(2)  which  specifically recognizes the  absence  of a uterus or  any  allied condition  as  a  medical  indication  necessitating gestational surrogacy ,  the  court  held.                 Addressing  the  Government’s contention that  the  surrogate  child should  be “genetically related”  to  the  couple ,  the  court  said  the  child   would  be  related  to  the  husband.  “In  this  regard, it  may  be  noted  that  the  expression  “genetically” related  to  the  intending  couple  has  to  be  read  as being  related to  the  husband when Rule 14 (a)  applies,”  the court  said.

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